No Dog in This Fight: Bo 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you more of a “dog person” or more of a “cat person”? What do those terms mean to you? Do you think a person’s choice in pet (or choice to not have a pet) says a lot about that person?

Domesticated pets don’t play a big role in the biblical landscape, but a passage from this week’s Torah portion referring to the forthcoming 10th plague (slaying of the Egyptian firstborns) suddenly refers to “man’s best friend”:

The Pitch: “And there shall be a loud cry in all the land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again; but not a dog shall snarl at any of the Israelites, at man or beast – in order that you may know that the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel.” – Exodus 11:6-7

Swing #1: “Through this statement the Bible means to tell us that the Children of Israel uprooted from their midst the vices of gossip and tale-bearing to which Moses had referred when he said concerning his slaying of the Egyptian taskmaster, ‘Surely the thing is known’ (Exodus 2:14). For had the Children of Israel still indulged in these vices, they would have been subject to the penalty by the Sages according to whom ‘anyone spreading evil gossip is deserving of being thrown to the dogs.’” – Rabbi Mordecai Benet

Swing #2: “No dog: Much less the ‘bringer-of-ruin’ of 12:13!” – Everett Fox, The Five Books of Moses

Swing #3: “This was the miracle; normally dogs alert their owners to the presence of the angel of death in their midst. In this instance, not one of the watch dogs wagged as much as a tail to warn their owners of danger.” – Daat Zkenim

Late-Inning Questions: Do our commentators seem to think that dogs are looked at positively or negatively in our text? Why would the text refer to dogs during this pivotal moment in the story of the Exodus? In what ways might pets play a pivotal role in our lives?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Our Torah Trope class is off to a great start. It’s not too late for you to join; we meet weekly on Tuesdays at 7:00PM. No prior experience necessary!

The Big Inning at the End: I feel for Pittsburgh Pirates fans; losing Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole via trade are big losses. Here’s hoping the young players they received in return are talented – PNC Park is too good of a ballpark to not have postseason play.

Shabbat Shalom!